Moses Walks Through the Tabernacle

Moses Walks Through the Tabernacle

There was fire, and blood, and smoke. There was stunning artistic design that communicated something otherworldly was taking place. If you walked up on this scene in the desert you would see thousands of tents circled around the rising smoke and you would gasp at the tower of fire hovering over a small structure in the nighttime sky at the center of camp.
Before Israel had a temple, they had the Tabernacle of Moses. It was a place to worship God that was portable. It could be packed up and moved as they journeyed through the wilderness moving towards the land promised to Abraham.

God had said to Moses, I want you to build me a Tabernacle that I may dwell with my people. Dwelling with His people has always been the heart of God, to gather His people and draw them close was the dream of God.

Ex 25:1 The LORD said to Moses, 2 “Tell the Israelites to bring me an offering. You are to receive the offering for me from each man whose heart prompts him to give. 3 These are the offerings you are to receive from them: gold, silver and bronze; 4 blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen; goat hair; 5 ram skins dyed red and hides of sea cows; acacia wood; 6 olive oil for the light; spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense; 7 and onyx stones and other gems to be mounted on the ephod and breastpiece. 8 “Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them. 9 Make this tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly like the pattern I will show you.

As in everything God does, there was a message embedded in the Tabernacle. It spoke of three truths:
1. God wants to be near His people
2. Sin was a barrier, and even though God was drawing near, there remained a barrier
3. The ultimate solution to the sin barrier was the one who would one day take the full punishment for sin, the Son of God, Jesus Christ, and remove its division between God and man through His blood shed on the cross

The Tabernacle was relatively small, 45ft x 15ft. Its construction was a wood frame with layers of fabric draped across. It was divided into two room, The Holy Place, and the Holy of Holies.

The Holy Place

The Holy Place was the first room as you entered the Tabernacle. It had three pieces of furniture. To your right was the Table of Showbread. On this table was 12 pieces of bread that were replaced each week by the priests with fresh. The bread was called the bread of the Presence. When the priest replaced the bread, they ate the old bread in the presence of the Lord. This was all commanded of God and served to teach that God wanted to be near and have relationship with His people.

To the left was the Golden Lampstand. It had seven lamp flames burning oil day and night. It was the priests job to make sure the oil never ran out – teaching that God is the true and only light for His people.

The third piece of furniture was the Golden Altar of Incense. This was also assigned to the priests to make sure the incense was always burning before the Lord. The sweet smell of the incense would fill the entire tabernacle and illustrate the prayers of God’s people rising before Him.

Separating the Holy Place from the second room, The Holy of Holies, was a veil. The veil served to remind the people that although God wanted to be close to them, there remained a problem that was an obstacle to relationship – it was sin.

The Holy of Holies

The Holy of Holies had just one piece of furniture in it, The Ark of the Covenant. This was a small box, made of wood, and overlaid with gold. Its dimensions were 4ft x 2ft. The lid of the box was called the Mercy Seat. It was flat and had an angel called a Cherubim, on each end. The mercy seat was very important and served several purposes. First it was the place where the high priest would sprinkle sacrificial blood once a year on the Day of Atonement. This sprinkling would cover the sins of the people for one year.

Secondly, the Mercy Seat would serve as the place where God’s Presence would rest as a kind of throne for His feet. It would represent the idea that God was among them.

Thirdly, the Mercy Seat was the place where God spoke with Moses.

Ex 25:17 “Make an atonement cover of pure gold– two and a half cubits long and a cubit and a half wide. 18 And make two cherubim out of hammered gold at the ends of the cover. 19 Make one cherub on one end and the second cherub on the other; make the cherubim of one piece with the cover, at the two ends. 20 The cherubim are to have their wings spread upward, overshadowing the cover with them. The cherubim are to face each other, looking toward the cover. 21 Place the cover on top of the ark and put in the ark the Testimony, which I will give you. 22 There, above the cover between the two cherubim that are over the ark of the Testimony, I will meet with you and give you all my commands for the Israelites.

The colors, dimensions, pieces of furniture, all pointed to Jesus who would come hundreds of years later to open the way between God and man and remove all barriers by becoming our Mercy Seat. The sprinkling of His pure and sinless blood would pay for the sins of many for all time.

In Moses day, it pointed forward to the awaited Messiah.

There was yet another message of the Tabernacle. This can be illustrated by what I will call, “The Moses Walk Through”.

The Moses Walk Through

To understand this last message of the Tabernacle we must imagine what it would’ve been like for Moses to go meet with God in the Tabernacle.

This will teach us a very important truth that not only did God want to dwell among His people, but He wanted His people to long for and love His Presence.

So. Let’s walk with Moses out to the Tabernacle and into the Presence of God.

As Moses approached the Tabernacle court he would see the curtain surrounding the courtyard. Over 300 ft. of white linen symbolizing the purity of God. The gate of the court yard was purple, blue, and red fabric, symbolizing the royalty, priestly ministry of Christ, and His future blood sacrifice.

As Moses entered the gates of the courtyard he would be immediately in front of the Brazen Altar. Smoke would be rising as the priests offered sacrifices there.

He would notice the pools of blood poured out at the base of the altar as he walked by. This again signifying the blood of Christ that would one day be poured out for the sins of the world.

He would pass by the bronze lavers full of water that the priests would symbolically wash in before going into the Tabernacle. This reminding them and us of a sin nature in need of cleansing and pointing forward to the washing of water by the word through Jesus that would make us clean in the sight of God.

Moses would come to the door of the Tabernacle and enter in. To his right he would see the Table of Showbread signifying God’s presence with Israel and to his left the Golden Lampstand. In front of him would be the Golden Altar of Incense, the soothing fragrance rising and wafting behind the curtain into the Holy Holies.

As Moses stood there preparing to enter the Holy of Holies to speak with God, he was bathed in flickering light from the lampstand that created an almost frightening atmosphere. After a deep breath, he entered the most sacred place that contained only one piece of furniture, the ark of the covenant. There was no light in the Holy of Holies. Moses stood there in the darkness and waited for the presence of God to come and rest on the mercy seat above the ark.

Think about what this would feel like. The intense anticipation standing in the darkness knowing that any moment the room would be filled with the most glorious light you had ever seen. I believe God designed the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place like this to heighten the anticipation of His presence and send a message. The message is that not only does God want to dwell with His people, but He wants His people to desire His presence more than anything else in their lives.

Today God longs for us to desire being with Him, to breathlessly anticipate being in His presence as the most exciting and pleasurable experience of our lives. Now without veil, priesthood, and constant sacrifices that speak of separation, but instead, unrestrained communion in the Holy Spirit because the cross of Christ has removed all barriers. Let us run to the throne of Grace in time of need and find His presence full of light, light, and help, saying over and over to us, I am near.

Heb 4:16 Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Jacob’s Altar

Jacob’s Altar

Any student of scripture hearing the cadence of the names, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, will immediately recognized these three generations as succeeding carriers of the promises of God.  Promises that included a people, blessing & protection, and that the Messiah would be born through their lineage.

Although all three names are often laced together in sentences, Jacob was very different from his grandfather Abraham, and his father Isaac. He was the one slowest to catch on to the enormity of the promise and what it meant for future generations.  Jacob wanted to be his own man – in reality, Jacob was rebellious – but God would soon fix that.

To illustrate this difference between Abraham and Isaac and this third- generation rebel Jacob, we can look at how they all responded when God spoke to them.

 

God spoke to Abraham, and he built an altar

Ge 12:7 The LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the LORD, who had appeared to him. 8 From there he went on toward the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the LORD and called on the name of the LORD.

 

God spoke to Isaac, and he built an altar.

Ge 26:24 That night the LORD appeared to him and said, “I am the God of your father Abraham. Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bless you and will increase the number of your descendants for the sake of my servant Abraham.” 25 Isaac built an altar there and called on the name of the LORD. There he pitched his tent, and there his servants dug a well.

 

God spoke to Jacob, and he built a pillar.

Ge 28:12 He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. 13 There above it stood the LORD, and he said: “I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying.  14 Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring.  15 I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”  16 When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it.”  17 He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.” 18 Early the next morning Jacob took the stone he had placed under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on top of it.

Jacob did not respond like Abraham & Isaac by building an altar; he built a pillar which was a very different response. An altar is a place of sacrifice, submission, and relationship. A pillar was a memorial to mark a spot where something amazing had happened.

Abraham was an altar man.

Isaac was an altar man.

Jacob was a pillar man.

Jacob was quite impressed with the dream and his encounter with God, but something was very lacking.  There was no real contrition or humbling. No prayer, no calling on the Name of the Lord, no sacrifice, no altar, no real relationship.

Abraham & Isaac’s response was worship, Jacob’s response was filled with conditions and the words “if” and “then”.

Ge 28:20 Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear  21 so that I return safely to my father’s house, then the LORD will be my God  22 and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.”

“If you protect me and provide for me then you will be my God.” In other words, “God if you prove yourself to me, then I’ll let you be my God”.  How different is that from his grandfather’s and father’s response to God?

Even though Jacob’s heart was not right, God would bless him for the sake of the promise given to Abraham and Isaac.

But God had a plan for this independent rebel.  A plan that would bring him to his knees and reveal his glaring lack of relationship with God and his absolute helplessness before the circumstances of life.

He would experience 20 years of trials and problems.  Cheated of time, money, and wives. In fear of his life from his uncle Laban, and his brother Esau.

God brings his troubles to a climax as his brother Esau is on his trail and is about to catch him.  Years earlier Jacob had cheated his brother out of the family birthright.  Esau had said then, “I’ll wait until dad has died, but then Jacob is a dead man!”.

Now dad is dead and Esau was coming for his brother.

Jacob was afraid – more afraid than he had ever been.  The night before Esau caught up with him, Jacob does something he had never done before, he prays.  Not just a “please help me I’m desperate and about to die” prayer. It was a real, heart-felt, humble, life changing prayer.  Something was being birthed in Jacob’s heart.

Ge 32:9 Then Jacob prayed, “O God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac, O LORD, who said to me, ‘Go back to your country and your relatives, and I will make you prosper,’ 10 I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant. I had only my staff when I crossed this Jordan, but now I have become two groups.  11 Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother Esau, for I am afraid he will come and attack me, and also the mothers with their children.  12 But you have said, ‘I will surely make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted.'”

That night as he pondered what the morning might bring, Jacob has another incredible experience with God.  The Bible says a “man” came to him and they wrestled all night.  Jacob knew this was no ordinary man – this encounter was Divine.  Many believe this was a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ.

Jacob would not let Him go until this “Man” blessed him.  I used to think that this was Jacob being Jacob – more of the strong-armed wheeler and dealer he had always been.  But I see now, this was Jacob’s desperate plea for help.  He was saying, “I am out of hope and if you don’t bless me, I’m going to die in the morning, so I can’t let you go – my life depends on it – I have got to have your blessing!”.

God does bless Jacob.  The next day when he meets with his brother Esau the anger and bloodshed that he feared, doesn’t happen. Instead, Esau is overjoyed to see his brother.  God had done a miracle, and Jacob is blown away.

Jacob leaves his brother and heads for the city of Shechem.  He stops outside the city and for the first time in his life – he builds an altar.

He gives the altar a name, a name that reveals the profound change that has occurred in his heart.

Ge 33:20 There he set up an altar and called it El Elohe Israel.

It would be easy to miss the significance of this verse.  Jacob names the altar, “El Elohe Israel, meaning in Hebrew, The Mighty God of Israel.

At first reading we might think he is saying, the mighty God of the nation of Israel, but we’d be wrong, there was no nation of Israel at that point in history.

God had changed Jacob’s name to Israel.  He was saying, “this altar is dedicated to my God. The God of Israel, the God who is the God of me!”.

“He is my God!”

It was an altar of sacrifice, thanks, worship, but most of all it signified the start of a new relationship.

He was now an altar man, just like his grandpa, and father, before him.

Some of us are like Jacob. We know there is a God, and we’re impressed, but we don’t know Him.  We gladly erect “pillars” that look spiritual, but lack real substance. There is no altar. No blood sacrifice. No cross, no real Jesus, no contrition. Our “pillars” are religious, but they mean very little.

Like Jacob/Israel God calls us to a place where we humble ourselves, and say, “you are the God of me!”.

How Close Are We To The End?

How Close Are We To The End?

Most of us have seen the blast-off of a rocket on TV.  We’ve heard the famous T-Minus countdown sequence – 6.5.4.3, “ignition sequence has started”, 2.1… “we have lift off”.  The engines burst with fire, the roar is deafening, and the power can be felt miles away as the rocket moves heavenward.

All conditions must be perfect before a launch can take place.  The weather, onboard computer systems, propellants, seals, and hundreds of other details must all be right, or the launch will be placed on hold.  When the T-Minus clock ticks to zero, everything is perfectly aligned.

As we watch the nightly news and consider the nations of the world, we can’t help but notice that certain prophetic alliances are coming into alignment too, making us ask the question, how much time is left on God’s countdown clock?

There seems to be evidence that suggests that we are very close to T-0.  But what if I told you the Bible clearly teaches that God has already put a hold on the countdown clock?  Daniel chapter nine is eye opening because this amazing prophecy gives us a clear understanding of the prophetic timeline and reveals that the clock has indeed been stopped.

Daniel was forcibly taken from his home into Babylonian captivity.  After many years, it was revealed to him that Israel would be in Babylonian captivity for a total of 70 years.  He begins to pray in anticipation of the Jewish people being allowed to return to Jerusalem.  He repents for his sins and the sins of his people, then he turns his prayer focus to ask God about the restoration of the city of Jerusalem and the temple. It was painful for Daniel to think that they still lay in ruins. God answers Daniel by sending the angel Gabriel to give him one of the most astounding prophecies in all of scripture, referred to by Bible scholars as Daniel’s Seventy Weeks.

Not only does this prophecy give us a detailed starting and ending point to the return of Christ, but also reveals the exciting fact that God has stopped the last-days countdown clock.

Here is what the angel Gabriel said:

Da 9:20 While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel and making my request to the LORD my God for his holy hill– 21 while I was still in prayer, Gabriel, the man I had seen in the earlier vision, came to me in swift flight about the time of the evening sacrifice. 22 He instructed me and said to me, “Daniel, I have now come to give you insight and understanding. 23 As soon as you began to pray, an answer was given, which I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed. Therefore, consider the message and understand the vision: 24 “Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy.

Gabriel says it will be seventy sevens, or seventy weeks of years. This totals 490 years.  It is obvious from the language, “put an end to sin” and “atone for wickedness, and bring in everlasting righteousness”, that what happens at the end of the 490 years is that Christ will return and set up His Millennial Kingdom.

The next verse tells us exactly when the 490 years, our T-Minus clock, will begin. 

 25 “Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’ It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble.

So, the clock starts with the decree for the Jews to go back to Jerusalem to rebuild.

The prophecy then gives us 3 time designations.  First, seven sevens or 49 years. This is the time it will take to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple. 

Then, sixty-two sevens or 434 years.  This is the time from the completion of the city and temple until Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem followed by His crucifixion.

These two total 483 years.

26 After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed.

Then, one last time-period of one week, or 7 years.  This is referred to as Daniel’s Seventieth Week, or the Tribulation period.

When we come to this next verse the prophecy turns to the last-days appearance of the Antichrist.  As the last seven-year period begins he confirms the Abrahamic covenant with the Jewish people giving them total control of the land, including the temple mount for 7 years.  This brings peace, and allows them to rebuild the temple and restart the sacrificial system of the Old Testament Law, but in the middle of the seven years, or 3 and half years into the agreement, he breaks the contract.  He stops the sacrifices and declares himself to be god.  (Compare Dan 9:27 to 2 Thes 2:3,4)

 27 He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’ In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on a wing of the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.”

When we look at the historical timing of these prophesied events that have already occurred, and how amazingly accurate they are, it leaves us with confidence that the future events will also take place just as they are written.

There’s only one problem.  It’s been a lot longer than 490 years since this prophecy was given to Daniel.   When Christ was crucified, God stopped the clock at 483 years.  We are on hold, awaiting the start of the last seven-year period.

We are in the time-period referred to as the “time of the Gentiles”.

A time where God turns to those not of Hebrew lineage and invites all who will come, to come to Christ.

A time when the church takes the Gospel to the world and the kingdom of God is filled with a “great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language”.

Ro 11:25 I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in.

BUT THERE IS COMING A TIME WHEN GOD WILL START THE COUNTDOWN CLOCK AGAIN.

To understand this, let me go back to my comments about the countdown sequence of a rocket.  As the engines fire and the rocket moves off the launch pad we hear the words, “we have lift off”, but there’s another statement made just before that.  It’s the statement, “we have launch commit”.  Launch commit is the point of no return.  It’s the point where the massive clamps holding the rocket are retracted, releasing the rocket for flight.  At that point, it’s all or nothing – fly to the heavens or crash and burn!

The Bible shows us God’s point of “launch commit”.  The exact point where the clock will start again starting the last 7 years and nothing will be able to stop the events that follow.

We find it in Revelation chapter 5.  The Apostle John is weeping because there is a scroll that must be opened, but only by someone who is righteous and holy, because what happens at the opening of the scroll is a series of judgements that will bring unparalleled wrath on an unbelieving world.

Re 5:1 Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals. 2 And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, “Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?” 3 But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. 4 I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. 5 Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.” 6 Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. 7 He came and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne.

When the scroll is opened by Christ, the Seal, Trumpet, and Bowl Judgments begin to be released, the wrath of God is poured out and humanity rushes towards the completion of Daniel’s Seventy Weeks.

490 years will have elapsed and the clock ticks to zero – then the Millennial Kingdom begins.

BUT RIGHT NOW – WE ARE ON HOLD.

During our present time of a stopped countdown clock, should we just enjoy the timeout and relax?

Of course not –  more than ever before, we should be praying, working, and sharing the gospel, because we don’t know when God will restart the clock.

Listen to the words of Jesus,

Joh 9:4 As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work.

If we call ourselves followers of Christ, but do not work, pray, and share the Gospel so that others may come into the kingdom, we need to ask ourselves why not?  As we see the state of the world, and the nations lining up, and know that God has stopped the clock so that we may work, why wouldn’t we now, more than ever, be fervent for the kingdom?

Let me leave you with this story.

When I was in eighth grade I was the quarterback on the football team.  On one game-day I showed up with a bad attitude.  My girlfriend had broken up with me that day and I was distracted and didn’t feel like being there.  There was a guy at the game who was a year older than me. His name was Bob Screese, and I will never forget what he said to me.

He called me over and asked me what was wrong.  When I told him, he said, “Rich those guys on that field are counting on you.  You have no right to bring those things with you when you walk onto the field.  Get your head in the game – and go out there and do your job”.

Great advice, and I believe God is saying the same thing to us today.  We all have reasons why we can’t do the things God has called us to do – but we have no right to bring any of it onto the field with us – let’s get our head in the game, and get our job done.

You Were Born to Win

You Were Born to Win

Because we were all created in the image of God, we all bear the finger print of God.  Meaning that even in a fallen state there remains a remnant of the Creator within us; certain qualities that have been embedded within human nature that point to our origin.

One such quality is how our heart resonates when we witness victory in the face of overwhelming odds, or how our heart soars when we hear words of triumph and victory that call us deeper and father than we’ve ever gone before.

Even the opening to one of my all-time favorite TV show still stirs me up when I hear it today.

“Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.”

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Under the Fig Tree

Under the Fig Tree

In the first century, Jewish Rabbis would instruct their students to find a place of seclusion under an olive vine or fig tree to study and pray.  The first chapter of the Gospel of John tells us the story of a young man named Nathanael who was under a fig tree when he heard the voice of his friend Philip excitedly calling him to come meet a man named Jesus, who was the Messiah.  Nathanael first resisted, but his life was about to be radically changed.

Joh 1:43 The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.” 44 Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida.  45 Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote– Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”  46 “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked. “Come and see,” said Philip.  47 When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false.”  48 “How do you know me?” Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.”  49 Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.”  50 Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You shall see greater things than that.” 51 He then added, “I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” (NIV)

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